The village of Ironbridge is located on the banks of the river Severn in the heart of the Ironbridge Gorge.  The town takes its name from the famous bridge which grew up next to it.  The town and surrounding area are often said to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.  This is because the first Abraham Darby perfected technique of smelting iron with coke in Coalbrookdale which enabled the production of iron to be much cheaper and more efficient than previously.  This led to local engineers and architects solving a long standing problem of crossing the river.  Prior to the building of the bridge it was only possible to cross the river by ferry which wasn’t reliable enough for the growth of industries in the area.

In 1773, Thomas Farnolls Pritchard[1] wrote to a local ironmaster, John Wilkinson of Broseley, to suggest building a bridge out of cast iron. By 1775, Pritchard had finalised the plans, but he died in December 1777, only a month after work had begun.[2]

Abraham Darby III, who was the grandson of the first foundry owner and an ironmaster working at Coalbrookdale in the gorge, was commissioned to cast and build the bridge. The iron for the new bridge was cast at his foundry.

Construction of the cast iron bridge began in 1779 and the bridge was finally opened on New Year’s day in 1781. It is the first arch bridge in the world to be constructed solely out of cast iron.  The bridge span is 100 feet and it rises 60 feet above the river.  Each part of the frame was cast separately and was based on carpentry techniques such as mortise and tenon and blind dovetail joints.  At the crown of the arch bolts were used to fasten the half-ribs together.  In all 378 tons of iron were used and the cost was just over £6000.  At one end of the bridge a toll house was built.  Today fixed to the outside is a board that displays the old toll tariffs; it is one of the many museums celebrating the history of the Ironbridge Gorge.

Shortly after its construction, cracks appeared in the masonry abutments.  This was partly due to ground movements which necessitated remedial work and partly due to flaws in the manufacture.   In more recent times, shifting of the river banks had caused the centre of the arch to raise several feet and a Ferro-concrete counter-arch was constructed under the river to stop further movement.

 The proprietors of the Ironbridge also built the Tontine Hotel in order to accommodate the numerous visitors to the bridge and other sites within the surrounding area.  The hotel is still there to this day.

The village of Ironbridge fell into decline by the 19th century but in 1986 the Bridge along with the surrounding Ironbridge Gorge area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Ironbridge Gorge Museums are now a major tourist attraction.

Sources: Wiki one, Wiki two and English Heritage.

A full view of the famous Iron Bridge can be viewed here.

1 thought on “Ironbridge

  1. First of all, Cherry, I bow to you in “seeing” this image! I stood on that very bridge and never once thought about getting such a brilliant view of it…through it. Secondly, I love how you research the places you visit and then educate us in your own way. Having met you twice now, I can just see you smiling and I want everyone else to see you, too: [Cherry is on the left]. That’s how I remember you…always smiling. 🙂
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinnie

    Wow…this is incredible!!! It reminds me of that saying – ‘they just don’t build ’em like they used to’. What an amazing feat of engineering and design. Love the story that surrounds it…and the detail you captured here. Thank-you for being my morning’s travel guide!
    July 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterMarcie

    Nice shot of this bridge, complete with interesting history behind it. BUT…following the link to your blog photo REALLY helped me visualize the scope of this bridge.
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue

    What a beautiful bridge, and an interesting history. You’ve done me a fabulous favor, as you piqued my curiosity about the iron “country money” that was used in Liberia. I brought some home with me that I found back in the bush, and after reading your piece, I began to wonder about the dating on it. Was it made before or after what you describe here? How did the process of smelting begin in Liberia? and so on.

    In the process, I discovered another unusual piece I have also is money – from a different tribe! So I have lots to explore, and a place to start, thanks to you!
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

    Isn’t is amazing what they were able to do so many years ago. We were with you when we visited the Ironbridge Museum. Absolute fabulous. Later on we visited the Bridge. It is a wonderful place to visit. Thank you for your information in the post. It is really educational.
    Love this view of the bridge.
    Again, a wonderful post.
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

    vision and verb is such a wonderful way to be transported from wherever i am to where you are. thank you for the magic carpet ride this morning.
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhoney

    What a wonderful point of view! You don’t even have to mention that this is in England, the houses in the right give it all away. So typical for your country – something I will always love.
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarola

    Another place I have to put on my list!
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPuna

    I so agree with Honey! This is one of the many things I love about our V & V sisterhood! To learn about so many parts of the country that we may never get to experience! Thank you!
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGotham Girl aka Robin

    Ginnie – It makes me smile that you (and others) like my view of the world 🙂 When we parted after meeting at Blists Hill I was imagining you and Astrid and the others, visiting Ironbridge. I knew you would love it and it made me smile even more knowing that I had visited just a couple of weeks earlier, which is when this photo was taken.

    Marcie – I am glad you enjoyed the tour around a part of my world.

    Linda – Wow! that is really interesting, I would love to know when you have researched your finds further.

    Astrid – I really enjoyed our visit to the museum and after I left I was imagining how you and Ginnie would feel, seeing the bridge for the first time 🙂

    Honey – I am glad you enjoyed it and that my small part of the world is interesting to others 🙂

    Carola – I find that England is rather quaint 😉

    Puna – If you do let me know, I will show you around.

    Gotham Girl – I find V&V very insperational – so many, views, thoughts and ideas to share with each other.
    July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCherryPie

    What a beautiful photo and fantastic, informative post. I had no idea of the role this are played in the industrial revolution. Adding it to my list of places to visit. Wonderful vision and amazing use of verb.
    July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine McKinney

    Wonderful post, love to hear about these sights. Wonderful picture, but I especially liked the picture on your blog
    July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPetra

    New knowledge and a photo with a view. Thanks Cherry!
    August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaery Rose

    What a wonderful snippet history. I love finding out these little gems of information about places of interest. Thanks for sharing and the fabulous image.
    August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

    Wow, what a fabulous image and history lesson. I so love that structures like this still exist, living parts of our history still in use. The scrollwork is just beautiful!
    August 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

    Catherine – If you ever decide to visit let me know, I will meet you there.

    Petra – Thank you, I couldn’t decide which one to use with my post. The one that showed the bridge in all its glory or a picture that showed part of the bridge and the town. I chose the one that showed the town too, but I knew others might have preferred the bridge. I am glad I included the link.

    Maery – I am glad you found the post interesting.

    Marie – I am glad you found my little part of the world interesting.

    Kelly – It is amazing that such structures still exist and that people still care about them to keep them maintained and safe.
    August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCherryPie

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